Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Reading Envy 173: Expecting a Lot from a Book

Jenny was happy to welcome Sarah Tittle in person to chat books we have read and liked recently. Sarah's past in publishing, her own writing, and her book club experiences all come together to form the reader she is today. We found our way to a few unintentional themes of female empowerment and radicalism, with a little reader's memory lane of one Nicholson Baker.

Download or listen via this link: Reading Envy 173: Expecting a Lot from a Book with Sarah Tittle

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Books discussed:

The Gloaming by Melanie Finn
The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery
Unfollow by Megan Phelps
West with the Night by Beryl Markham
Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie
The Seven Necessary Sins for Women and Girls by Mona Eltahawy

Other mentions:

Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner
The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy
The Mezzanine by Nicholson Baker
Vox by Nicholson Baker
The Fermata by Nicholson Baker
Double Fold by Nicholson Baker
The Anthologist by Nicholson Baker
Away from You by Melanie Finn
Women's Prize for Fiction
Antigone by Sophocles
Circe by Madeleine Miller
Headscarves and Hymens by Mona Eltahawy
Agent Running in the Field by John Le Carré
Less by Andrew Sean Greer
The Confessions of Max Tivoli by Andrew Sean Greer
Sing Unburied Sing by Jesmyn Ward

Stalk us online:
Sarah is @sarahcrosbytittle on Instagram
Sarah on Facebook
Sarah at Goodreads
Jenny at Goodreads
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Jenny is @readingenvy on Instagram and Litsy

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Books Read November 2019: 253-272

Pictured: This month's 5-star Reads

253. A Year Without a Name by Cyrus Grace Dunham ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (print ARC; my review)
254. Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (eARC; my review)
255. Running in the Family by Michael Ondaatje ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (personal copy; my review)
256. Unfollow by Megan Phelps-Roper ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (eARC; my review)
257. My Time Among the Whites by Jennine Capo Crucet ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (personal copy; my review)
258. Medium Raw by Anthony Bourdain ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (Hoopla audiobook; my review)
259. Thorn by Anna Burke ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (eARC; my review)
260. We Have Always Been Here by Samra Habib ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (print ARC; my review)
261. Black Diamond Fall by Joseph Oshan ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (eARC; my review)
262. Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (print ARC; my review)
263. Sing Unburied Sing by Jesmyn Ward ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (personal copy; my review)
264. This Tilting World by Collette Bellous ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (personal copy; my review)
265. Lot: Stories by Bryan Washington ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (library copy; my review)
266. Someone Who Will Love You in All Your Damaged Glory by Raphael Bob-Waksberg ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (personal copy audiobook; my review)
267. Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (library eBook; my review)
268. The Latehomecomer by Kao Kalia Yang ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (Hoopla audiobook; my review)
269. Mockingbird by Walter Tevis ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (interlibrary loan; my review)
270. Wild Game by Adrienne Brodeur ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (print ARC; my review)
271. The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (print ARC; my review)
272. Snowflakes at Mistletoe Cottage by Katie Ginger ⭐️⭐️⭐️ (Kindle eBook; my review)

Total: 20

Audiobook: 3
eBook: 6
Print: 11

Library copy: 5
Personal copy: 6
Review copy: 9

Asia 2019: 2
Non-fiction November: 11
Tournament of Books 2020: 2
TBR-Explode: 2

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Submit your best read of 2019

I can't believe it but it's almost December, and time for me to start soliciting your picks for the Best of 2019 episode. I've started cutting my reading year off at December 1, meaning some of my best reads of 2019 might be from December 2018.

If you want to be included in this annual episode of fun times, please fill out this Google form by December 14. It also includes instructions on how to send an audio file, which is my preference. I don't mind reading your words for you but I'd love to have as many voices as possible. (Please limit audio to 5 minutes or less!)

To hear previous episodes to get an idea, please try:
Episode 139 - Stocking Stuffer (Best Reads of 2018)
Episode 105 - Best Reads of 2017
Episode 075 - After the Year We've Had (Best of 2016)
Episode 046 - Books for Your Kitty Party (The Best of 2015) 
Episode 019 - Dump Truck Poetry with many guest contributors!

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Review: The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir

The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir by Kao Kalia Yang
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After reading The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures, I was curious to learn more about the Hmong people and "The Secret War." This memoir chronicles the Yang family's escape from Laos into a refugee camp in Thailand (where the author was born) to resettlement in Minnesota. The contrast in cultures and values was stark as the parents as the family tried to make the United States home, even if it's not where the ancestors are buried.

The pace of this memoir is at times a bit too slow for me, which was magnified as I listened to the audio. She sometimes gives too much information about consecutive days while also covering her entire life and the life of her family before she was born. There is also a level of what some have called sentimentality, especially when it comes to her grandmother, that I tried to understand from her perspective but at times felt like a bit much. Still, it is an inside view of the refugee experience that is well worth the read.

This is the 10th memoir I've read during Nonfiction November.

View all my reviews

Monday, November 25, 2019

Review: Men We Reaped

Men We Reaped Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After discussing Sing Unburied Sing with a group, some seemed to have more insight after reading Jesmyn Ward's memoir and made me want to read it too. It isn't easy going - chapters alternate between her life and the stories of five men in her family/community that died within a period of five years. Highly recommended especially as a companion to her fiction, but really for anyone interested in how a person can share difficult personal stories in an honest way.

This is memoir 9 of my Nonfiction November project for 2019.

Bits I saved for future discussion....

"I knew the boys in my first novel, which I was writing at that time, weren't as raw as they could be, weren't real. I knew they were failing as characters because I wasn't pushing them to assume the reality that my real-life boys... experienced every day. I loved them too much: as an author, I was a benevolent God. I protected them from death, from drug addiction, from needlessly harsh sentences in jail for doing stupid, juvenile things like stealing four-wheel ATVs. All of the young Black men in my life, in my community, had been prey to these things in real life, and yet in the lives I imagined for them, I avoided the truth."

"Everything about the night seemed stolen, lived in those murky hours while others slept or worker. We crawled through time like roaches through the linings of walls, the neglected spaces and hours, foolishly happy that we were still alive even as we did everything to die."

"Like for many of the young Black men in my community across generations, the role of being a father and a husband was difficult for my father to assume. He saw a world of possibility outside the confines of the family, and he could not resist the romance of that. But like many of the young Black women in her generation, my mother understood that she had to forget the meaning of possibility, the tender heat of romance, the lure of the vistas of the world. My mother understood that her vistas were the walls of her home, her children's bony backs, their open mouths. Like the women in my family before her, my mother knew the family was her burden to bear."

"I was the eldest daughter of an eldest daughter, and I had to do as she had done and help keep the household together... [description of hanging laundry] ... This is how things were done in my mother's house."

"I looked at myself and saw a walking embodiment of everything the world around me seemed to despise: an unattractive, poor, Black woman. Undervalued by her family, a perpetual workhorse. Undervalued by society regarding her labor and her beauty. This seed buried itself in my stomach and bore fruit. I hated myself. That seed bloomed in the way I walked, slumped over, eyes on the floor, in the way I didn't even attempt to dress well, in the way I avoided the world, when I could, through reading, and in the way I took up as little space as possible and tried to attract as little notice as I could, because why should I? I was something to be left."

"...This is how my brother and I understood what it meant to be a women: working, dour, full of worry. What it meant to be a man: resentful, angry, wanting life to be everything but what it was."

"My entire society suffered from a lack of trust...Because we trusted nothing, we endeavored to protect ourselves, boys becoming misogynistic and violent, girls turning duplicitous, all of us hopeless. Some of us turned sour from the pressure, let it erode our sense of self until we hated what we saw, without and within."

"Grief doesn't fade. Grief scabs over like my scars and pulls into new, painful configurations as it knits. It hurts in new ways. We are never free from grief. We are never free from the feeling that we have failed. We are never free from self-loathing. We are never free from the feeling that something is wrong with us, not with the world that made this mess."

"As an adult, I see my mother's legacy anew. I see how all the burdens she bore, the burdens of her history and identity and of our coutnry's history and identity, enabled her to manifest her greatest gifts. My mother had the courage to look at four hungry children and find a way to fill them. My mother had the strength to work her body to its breaking point to provide for herself and her children. My mother had the resilience to cobble together a family from the broken bits of another... As the eldest daughter of an eldest daughter, and having just borne a daughter, I hope to teach my child these lessons, to pass on my mother's gifts."

View all my reviews

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Reading Envy 172: The It Book of NYC

Jenny welcomes Jon Laubinger of the Film Baby Film Podcast back to the Reading Envy Pub for a chat on books, the multimedia versions they connect to, and more. We spend some time chatting about recent book awards, including more on the Booker Prize and the Nobel Prize for Literature. If you're not that interested in award chatter, jump ahead to 15:15. And make sure to listen to the end for information on one Reading Envy guest who had a movie made from his work!

Download or listen via this link: Reading Envy 172: The It Book of NYC with Jon Laubinger

Subscribe to the podcast via this link: Feedburner
Or subscribe via Apple Podcasts by clicking: Subscribe
Or listen through TuneIn
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Books discussed:

The Need by Helen Phillip
The Deep by Rivers Solomon, Daveed Diggs, William Hutson, and Jonathan Snipes
Satantango by László Krasznahorkai, translated by George Szirtes
First Light by Charles Baxter
The Devils of Loudon by Aldous Huxley
Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin, read by Frances McDormand

Other mentions:

Booker Prize 2019
The Testaments by Margaret Atwood
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
Quichotte by Salman Rushdie
Nobel Prize for Literature
Flights by Olga Tocarczuk
Wings of Desire (film)
Kindred by Octavia Butler
"We Are in the Future" - This American Life 623
Interview with Rivers Solomon
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Citizen by Claudia Rankine
Satantango (film)
Werckmeister Harmonies (film)
The Turin Horse (film)
Roadside Picnic by Boris and Arkady Strugatsky
Tinkers by Paul Harding
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
The Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley
The Devils (film)
Black Wave by Michelle Tea
Beanpole (film)
21 Truths About Love by Matthew Dicks
The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang
The Unwomanly Face of War by Svetlana Alexievich, translated by P&V

Related Episodes:

Episode 041 - Grotesque Beauty with Nathan Ballingrud 
Episode 080 - The Wild Things Helped with Jason Roland
Episode 102 - The Reading Women Reading Envy Crossover Episode 
Episode 106 - Falling Asleep During Tarkovsky Films with Jon Laubinger
Episode 126 - Bernice Bobs her Hair with Jon Laubinger
Episode 165 - Delightful Reads with Claire
Episode 166 - On Brand with Karen
Episode 167 - Book Pendulum with Reggie
Episode 170 - Permission to Read with Joshua Greer 

Stalk us online:

Jon's podcast website, Film Baby Film
FBF on Instagram
Jon at Goodreads
Jenny at Goodreads
Jenny on Twitter
Jenny is @readingenvy on Instagram and Litsy

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Review: A Year Without a Name: A Memoir

A Year Without a Name: A Memoir A Year Without a Name: A Memoir by Cyrus Grace Dunham
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I decided to start November out seeing how many memoirs I could read.

This memoir is an excellent capture of grappling with genderqueer identity. I've marked a bunch of places that resonate with experiences friends of mine have had, but I've never seen in articulated so well. It's a quick read and very worth reading.

I verified with the publisher that I could quote from my copy so here are the bits that resonated with experiences friends of mine have had, so eloquently stated:

"Whenever my bodily claustrophobia grows unbearable, I seek new lovers, new locations, new friends. So be it. Novelty is the longest-lasting short-term coping system I know of."

"I hated myself for still believing that one person, a lover, could rid me of whatever kept me hating myself in the first place."

"...More and more people in my life began to accuse me of dishonesty... A friend who had caught on to my habit gave me her marked-up copy of a 1975 Adrienne Rich essay called 'Women and Honor: Some Notes on Lying.' Rich writes that the liars, afraid of themselves, cannot bear their own contradictions, cannot face what might be lost if they are honest. I said whatever I thought people wanted to hear...."

"How to know if the problem was gender or personhood. How to know if the problem was gender or me."

This book came out November 15, 2019 - I was sent a copy from the publisher.

View all my reviews